In 2019, Kati Ortiz moved to Uganda to become a teacher at Ekisa Academy. While the move might have been big for others, Kati was used to moving around and learning new cultures.
"I grew up living between two military families, mostly in North Carolina and Texas. I also spent some time living with my dad in Germany. Those experiences definitely gave me a love for travel, new cultures, and experiencing the world. I never imagined that would have an effect on my career because, up until the end of high school, I really wanted to be a meteorologist."
For Kati, that dream changed in the span of half an hour.
"I started to consider special education after getting asked to volunteer in a special education classroom. After seeing the wonderful students, and how the teachers interacted with them, I left that classroom thinking, I’m not doing anything else in my life but this. It only took 30 minutes."
Kati went on to study Special Education and it became one of the best decisions she ever made.
"I chose Texas State—go Bobcats!—and it was the best experience I had up until that point in my life."
While there, she started exploring special education opportunities, some near, and some very far away from home.
"I learned about Ekisa in Uganda and applied to be a teacher soon after. I interviewed, was accepted for a year-long position, and packed my bags. Just two weeks after I started in August 2019, our director asked me if I wanted to stay longer than I had planned. I knew I had to. So I extended my time until the end of 2020, because I love teaching here and I wanted to create a little more consistency for my students in Purple Class, a curriculum for students who have autism or behavioral issues."
While Kati loves all the experiences that Uganda is bringing her, it's really the students that have meant the most to her.
Kati with James, one of her students, at prom last February.
"It’s been so cool to see progress with my students. One of them, Aslam, wouldn’t talk to me at all for the first week of teaching. But I remembered learning during my degree that, until you focus on building a relationship, students won’t trust you. So I spent a lot of time talking to him, just hanging out with him. And now, it’s amazing. He’s telling me the alphabet, listing off numbers, and he’s been a lot more verbal with me about his needs and wants. It’s been really cool to see him improve."
While Kati has been able to thrive in her role far away from home, she wants to encourage others that it can happen for them, too.
"My advice for anyone considering work like this abroad is that, even though it can be scary and overwhelming at first, the Lord is faithful and He is with you. But you might not see that until you first take a step into the unknown.”